This tiny little sleepy village lying on the way to Manikaran, Kasol is now a huge destination for backpackers and travellers from around the globe. Tourism has progressed to such an extent, that this little village in the Parvati Valley can often get mistaken for a mini-Israeli town (thanks largely to signboards in Hebrew as well). It seems to speak with the hippie souls like no other place in Himachal Pradesh does. Bestowed with the best nature has to offer, Kasol, at an altitude of 1640 meters, is an un[traveller]’s delight. Head here for some interesting falafel, as you watch the Parvati river roaring through the valley, where the mountains are clearly not the only things high.
My heart pumped wildly even before I was exposed to the trippy air of Kasol. No, it wasn’t because I was smoking up. The road leading to this popular hill station is so nerve-racking dangerous that every time our cab took a sharp turn (and there were plenty of those), I looked out the window with trepidation.
On one side of the highway stands massive and mean looking rocks that threaten to slide on to the road causing havoc. And on the other side is the Parvati River with an unrelenting current. The cab had to tread a delicate path between these two stubborn natural obstacles. The life of 12 passengers (including mine) was entirely in the hands of the driver and there was no margin for error whatsoever.
After a twelve hour bus ride from Dehradun, we reached the first pit stop of the journey at Bhuntar (Himachal Pradesh). Another 3 hours on the road and an hour long trek finally led us to the remote village of Tosh, located on the slopes of a mountain. The snow capped mountains high above and the waterfall below made the long and tedious journey to Tosh worthwhile.
Kasol: The Little Israel of India
Back in the day, Kasol was a place known amongst a select few circles – especially foreigners from predominantly Israel, Russia, and a few eastern European countries. The few Indians that explored this unknown region were the ones that truly belonged in the wild, withholding this particular place. Thanks to the easy availability of mesmerizing views, beautiful landscape, fantastic weather and of course, the Malana cream.
However, when the social media gained prominence, this little serene heaven gained popularity like no other. Kasol became a brand about chilling, trekking, hiking, getting lost in nature, and just enjoying some time off. With tonnes of treks and trails surrounding the entire Parvati Valley region, it soon got famous as the second home to the backpackers in India.
The Parvati Valley is the favoured holiday destination of young Israelis. As in Israel, it is mandatory for citizens, both men and women (YAY Equality!), to serve in the defense forces of the country. One can easily spot many Isreali soldiers roaming about the streets and chilling in cafes. Having spoken to a few in my time there, the soldiers tend to seek solidarity to process their thoughts after spending time experiencing the brutalities of army life. The readily available drugs, low cost of living, peaceful environment and prospect of rave parties draws many foreigners to this hill station.
Kasol is fast turning into a Jewish settlement where Shalom (greeting) and namaste are used interchangeably. Hebrew sign boards are a common sight in this area. According to an estimate, about 70 per cent of the foreigners visiting the state come from Israel.
Kasol also has a Chabad (prayer place) for the Israeli community at the end of the market. It is open and accessible to people of all communities and looked after by a soft-spoken priest. They have built their own nest here and are at ease with the surroundings.
How to reach Kasol ?
The cheapest and most preferred way to reach Kasol Himachal is via railway and bus. The nearest railhead is Pathankot which is nearly 150 km from Kasol. Chandigarh railway station (290 km from Kasol) is preferred over Pathankot due to its better connectivity to other Indian cities. From Chandigarh, catch a bus to Manali, though you don’t have to travel till there. You need to get down at Bhuntar (48 kms before Manali), which is 31 kms away from Kasol. From here, you can catch a local bus or taxi to reach your destination.
Note: Kasol does not have direct connectivity by bus/train from major cities.
Things to do in Kasol
A better way to plan for a trip to Kasol is to know what can be done and where you have the interests.Kasol really isn’t about commercial fulfillment. The real experience of Kasol lies in the lap of mother nature. Numerous unexplored, undefined trails are present in Kasol and other parts of Parvati Valley which you can explore on your trip to Kasol.
There are a bunch of experiences in Parvati Valley that you cannot define in the ordinary sense of travel. You can express Kasol and the following surrounding regions of Parvati Valley as the Bob Marley Country where his face is everywhere, on T-shirts, on Flags, on menus, graffitis and even the bed sheets of some hostels.
If you do one thing when in Kasol, it has to be the hike of Chalal (if you can even call it a trek!). This deeper spiritual experience will take you about 25 minutes’ walk to reach the village, and you’ve escaped all commercial life as you know it.
The solitude in Chalal village is addictive. And when the colorful trees and chirpy birds keep you company, you know you’re in heaven. I am not saying that Chalal is missing other quintessential Himalayan holiday feels.
Where to stay in Kasol
In Kasol, the most popular form of stays is, of course, the highly budget-friendly hostels. You’ll come across a lot of these budget places and hostels in Parvati Valley right from Kasol, Tosh and other nearby villages. These hostels and pocket-friendly guest houses help to lower Kasol Solo Trip budget for many backpackers.
In terms of luxury hotels, You can check out Alpine Guest House, The Himalayan village, Sun and Wind or The Parvati Kuteer, which is also quite cute. However, I have almost always found it to be sold out. If you’re lucky, then it’s a cheaper option to stay in!
With the rapidly increasing number of visitors, numerous stay options have come up of late. You needn’t really book in advance. To enjoy your stay to the fullest, I would suggest you ditch the luxurious hotel and stay in a tent. They are available in the range of 300-500 INR per person for a night. I along with my friends opted for Surya camps.
Food Options in Kasol
When in Kasol, and hills in general – one must try the Honey ginger lemon tea as well as the Nutella hot milk at every restaurant you can manage. Other must-have items include the Israeli dishes, including Shakshuka.
In terms of restaurants and cafes, you should have the Jim Morrison café on your list for the hippie vibes, the Parvati river café for the insane views, the German Bakery for its carrot cake. Evergreen restaurant, Little Italy, Moon Dance Café, Lucky Dhaba, Stone Garden Café, and Panj Tara Bar & Grill are other honorary mentions.
Things to carry for Trip To Kasol
- Valid Id Proof
- Waterproof Trekking shoes
- Enough Warm clothes
- And enough CASH
Attraction to explore in Kasol
Sightseeing- Parvati River, Malana, Kheerganga Peak, Hot water Spring at Kasol
Religious Places– Manikaran Sahib Gurudwara, Raghunath Mandir
Best Shopping Places– The Local Flea Market is the best place to fill up your shopping bags. The best buys are funky T-shirts and cool bags.
Adventure Activities– Kheerganga Trek, Night walks in Chalal, Sar Pass Trek, Tosh Trek.
Tosh – Where Time Stands Still
Drive down to Tosh, a mere 20 kilometres from Kasol, past scenic waterfalls and views of the valley. A village lying at the height of 7900 feet on top of a hill surrounded by mountains from all sides. Tosh offers some breathtaking views of the Parvati Valley. In recent years this village has gained popularity amongst tourists.
It was evening time when my friends and I stepped inside the German Bakery for snacks. The smell of hash reeked from every corner of the dim lit cafe with Bob Marley posters on the walls. In time, I realised that Bob Marley is the God, Schnitzel (Israeli food) the staple diet and trance the archetypal music in this part of India. There is nothing much to do in Tosh than to explore the surroundings. With every step you take there will be an upsurge in love for this place.Such breathtaking views it provides of the beautiful Parvati Valley. In addition, as Tosh is becoming quite popular among the backpackers, many trance and psychedelic parties are being organized here.
Nearby Tosh, there are many treks you can choose from, Kheerganga being the most popular.
Travelers I interacted with didn’t remember what day or date it was. They had even forgotten when they had arrived in this village nor did they have any clue of their departure date. I was beginning to understand why Tosh is called smokers paradise. People don’t come to Tosh for the weekend, they come for weeks that turn to months. Stubbles turn to beards amid the smoke and sound. One way you’ll know you’re in Tosh, especially at night, is a sky full of stars so bright you’ll think you’ve arrived on another planet.
This less-travelled hill station has most of its natural beauty intact considering commercialisation has yet to leave its mark here. If you’re expecting to find a fancy hotel to check into here you’ll probably be left disappointed.
But isn’t that the whole point of taking a break from city life?
Kalga & Pulga
Get yourself a truly local experience and stay in a local house/homestay in these villages. The paths are obscure, the mint tea is delicious, and the views are spectacular when you’re here.
If you’re looking for an adventure-packed activity-filled holiday on your Kasol trip, it is best to avoid Kalga village. It is home to those who want to escape the ho-drum of life while interacting with the peace and tranquillity of nature. Kalga lies at a 45-minute hike from Barshaini.
With wooden houses and cherry blossoms in the summer months, the journey towards this little town has you covered in terms of hikes (only way to reach the village is a 3 km hike from Bhersheni), waterfalls (and crossing foot-over bridges), apple orchards (villagers will happily pluck a few for the travelers!) as well as the gorgeous forest.
A gentle 5-kilometer trek through spectacular foliage and quaint villages in the Parvati valley would take you to Manikaran. Known more for its gurudwara and, supposedly healing-powered, natural hot springs, begin your walk at the gurudwara as you move through dirt roads, passing the occasional stone-walled kitchen garden and cattle shed.
Head on to ‘Bob Marley’ country, otherwise called Chalal village, there are traces of this legendary singer everywhere, from T-shirts to graffiti. The setting for some intense trance parties, Chalal is famous during season time for the interesting crowd who turn up here on the banks of the Parvati.
Important Tips when visiting Parvati Valley
- While ATMs would be available near Kasol, it is better to carry sufficient cash for other places in the region of Parvati Valley. Cards will not work in most nearby villages.
- Carry a water bottle and fill it up when possible. Especially during treks, it is highly essential to stay hydrated. Also, always have a good pair of hiking shoes handy.
- Be Respectful of the customs of locals. Don’t be offended if the villagers avoid strangers in different villages. Also, don’t take pictures of villagers and particularly the kids without prior permission from them!
- Goes without saying, but please do not litter or destroy natural surroundings if you have the right to enjoy it then so should others that come after you. The sight of littered plastic/ beer bottles, cigarette butts is heart-breaking!
- Nearby regions to Kasol are known for producing some of the best hashish which is due to the supporting climate. Hence, it grows naturally in this area. Even though locals consider it a plant, possession of the same is illegal in our country. Make sure you do not indulge in any unlawful activities on your trip to Kasol.
You should always carry your own water bottle and refill it as many times as you need water. It will not only keep you hydrated always, but you will also help in saving the Himalayas from plastic garbage. Remember, every tiny step counts and your step in this direction can help save the Himalayas too !!
The hippie junction – Kasol in Parvati Valley is a must visit for those who appreciate the art of living freely. Although it has become more commercialized in recent years, Kasol has managed to maintain its charm, especially if you visit in the off-season.
Is there something I might have missed? Please feel free to comment below, and we can feature your suggestions!